Apple iPhone 12 Pro camera technology designed for serious photographers

The Apple iPhone 12 brings Night Mode to ultrawide and selfie cameras, not just the main camera.

The Apple iPhone 12 brings Night Mode to ultrawide and selfie cameras, not just the main camera.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple is gunning hard for photo and video enthusiasts with its iPhone 12 Pro models, bringing major updates to camera hardware and computational photography software.

Among the changes in the iPhone Pro models are a larger sensor for better low-light performance, new abilities to fuse multiple frames into one shot, better stabilization to counteract your shaky hands and a new lidar sensor for improved autofocus. And on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the telephoto camera can zoom in better on distant subjects.

The iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max debuted at Apple’s iPhone 12 launch event Tuesday. The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini stick with last year’s design, with regular, ultrawide and selfie cameras. The bigger photography improvements come with the Pro and Pro Max, which get a larger image sensor and a fourth telephoto for more distant subjects, too. The iPhone 12 Pro matches a 2X zoom telephoto lens with a 52mm equivalent focal length, but the Pro Max’s 2.5X zoom uses a 65mm equivalent lens.

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iPhone 12 includes Smart HDR 3 and improved Night Mode


Cameras are one of the most important features on a new smartphone along with processor and network speeds. We snap photos and videos to document our lives, to share with friends and family and to enjoy artistic expression.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini get significant improvements, too. They’ll benefit from Night Mode photos that now work on the ultrawide and selfie cameras, too, and an improved HDR mode for challenging scenes with bright and dark elements, Apple said.

HDR stands for high dynamic range — the ability to capture shadow details without turning highlights into a washed-out mess. All the new iPhones bring third-generation HDR technology designed to better capture details like silhouetted faces, Apple said. It also uses machine learning technology to judge processing choices like boosting brightness in dim areas, the company said.

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